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Doctors Face 2 Years in Jail if they discuss conditions on Nauru and Christmas Island

May 29, 2015



You may not realise it, but a new Commonwealth law came into effect this week that will have far-reaching consequences for the scrutiny of immigration detention centres and the treatment of asylum seekers under the Commonwealth’s care.

Slipping quietly under the radar, the new law called the Australian Border Force Act 2015, prevents those working in Australia’s detention centres – including doctors, healthcare workers and employees from not for profit organisations – from revealing anything to anyone about the situations they encounter while doing their jobs.

According to the Australian Lawyers Alliance, the Australian Border Force Act – supported by the ALP and opposed only by the Greens – effectively turns the Department of Immigration into a secret security organisation with police powers.

Barrister and spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance Greg Barns says the Government is effectively banning anyone from speaking to the media about the circumstances under which asylum seekers are detained and the conditions they encounter.

“The Abbott Government is erecting an iron curtain of secrecy over what is happening and what has happened in Australia’s immigration detention system,” he said.

“Although the Act seems to be directed at Customs operations, it also seeks to regulate and control access to information about asylum seekers in immigration detention.”

Under the Act, it is a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment of up to two years, for any person working directly or indirectly for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to reveal to the media or any other person or organisation (the only exceptions being the Immigration Department and other Commonwealth agencies, police, coroners) anything that happens in detention centres like Nauru and Manus Island.

Barns said that Section 24 of the Act requires that any departmental workers or contractors to the department subscribe to an oath.

“There is no detail about the contents of the oath, and it is possible that the oath will prevent individuals such as doctors and nurses, as well as organisations such as the Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Nations and Amnesty International, from fulfilling their ethical and professional obligations to report physical and mental harm,” he said.

Section 26 of the Border Force Act allows the Australian Border Force Commissioner to direct people who work for the department including contractors, consultants and people who work for foreign governments or for public international organisations.

These directions must be followed. This will inhibit contractors from abiding by their professional obligations or from following the generally accepted standards required to fulfil their roles.

The Commissioner could, for example, direct that medical staff on Nauru ensure they seek permission from him before accepting a request to provide a briefing on their work to a medical organisation such as the AMA.

“Section 42 of the Act is disturbing in its heading alone. It is entitled “Secrecy”.

It provides that a person who is an “entrusted person” commits an offence if he or she makes a record of, or discloses, what is termed protected information.

An “entrusted person” is defined in the Act to mean not only government employees, but also a consultant or contractor. And “protected information” simply means any information that a person comes across while working for, or in, detention centres.

If section 42 is not chilling enough, consider the definition of “corrupt conduct”. It includes conduct by an employee or contractor or consultant that is judged to be “abusing his or her position.

Barnes said the effect of these provisions will be to deter individuals such as doctors, counsellors, and others who have voiced publicly their concerns about the appalling conditions endured by asylum seekers in detention centres from collecting information about those conditions and then raising their concerns in the community via the media.

“The Act not only criminalises whistleblowers but those such as medical professionals and teachers who believe they have an ethical duty to report physical and mental harm that occurs in a systemic fashion. It may be that these new requirements put vulnerable people’s lives at risk but given the secrecy requirements of the Act, we will never know,” he said.

“The Border Force Act goes much further than any other Commonwealth, State or Territory legislation in seeking to reduce scrutiny of Government actions in a detention setting.”

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Neil of Sydney permalink
    May 29, 2015 2:19 pm

    Why would you want to post a story about what goes on in ALP detention centers?

    This is what REb, TB, Walrus, Toilet, AO and anybody who voted for Rudd in 2007 built.

    This is what the ALP built from 2007-2013
    Wickham Point (established in Darwin in 2011)
    Curtin (near Derby, WA, reopened in 2010)
    Scherger (near Weipa, Queensland, established in 2010)
    Yongah Hill (near Northam, WA, established in 2012)
    There was also
    Inverbrackie Alternative Places of Detention opened 2010
    Leonora Alternative Place of Detention opened 2010
    Port Augusta Immigration Residential Housing reopened 2010″
    Of course i forgot to mention Manus Island reopened in 2012. Most probably lots of others.

  2. TB Queensland permalink
    May 29, 2015 3:27 pm

    I see the Liberal Defence Force is straight out of the block!

  3. May 29, 2015 6:44 pm


    Let’s enact more laws to be like North Korea, China or USSR.

    Y’know, the places neocon fuckheads try and draw parallels between our progressive governments and despotic communist regimes.

    Like everything, they overuse the terminology to the point at which it becomes cheapened & dismissable. ‘Communist’, ‘Leftist’, ‘Socialist’, ‘Atheist’, ‘Terrorist’…

    They do it because their base laps that shit up & yaps for larger helpings.

  4. May 29, 2015 6:45 pm

    You used my name again, Neil, you dim fuckwit.

  5. May 29, 2015 7:16 pm

    I don’t mind congratulating myself on this insightful piece of journalism.

    Because obviously no other c**t will!

  6. May 29, 2015 7:25 pm

    ~ Congratulations!

  7. May 29, 2015 7:30 pm


  8. May 29, 2015 7:33 pm

    I was serious.

    I wish the voting population of this country read & contemplated this article.

  9. May 29, 2015 7:35 pm

    thanks boss, i was being flippant, but i appreciate that…. 🙂

  10. May 29, 2015 7:36 pm

    Why won’t it be widespread?

    In my humble opinion, perhaps because people would rather confront than be confronted (by facts, unpalatable moral truisms & their own hypocrisy)..


  11. armchair opinionator permalink
    May 29, 2015 8:10 pm

    child abuse means mandatory reporting for most health professionals. I guess they can report it but it won’t go anywhere and nothing will be done about it. Makes a mockery of protective legislation doesn’t it?

  12. May 29, 2015 8:24 pm

    The cone of operational silence extends its pervasiveness…

  13. May 29, 2015 8:25 pm

    I haven’t deduced just how yet, but this is more than likely the plot of a biased ABC.

    * Go AbbottCorp, Cut The ABC…Turn It Into A Slogan If You Have The Gonads…

  14. armchair opinionator permalink
    May 29, 2015 9:19 pm

    …An American Cardinal has claimed that “radical feminism” is to blame for a host of issues within the Catholic Church and blamed feminists for creating paedophiles, or sexually confused “disordered men” who entered the priesthood and sexually abused children.

    Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was last year demoted by Pope Francis from the head of the Vatican’s highest court to a role with little responsibility, has claimed that the “radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalised”…

    Of course, it’s [still] all the fault of women!

    How much does religion harbour, protect and support misogynist attitudes as well as paedophiles?

  15. Neil of Sydney permalink
    May 30, 2015 10:08 am

    Well this issue is a problem. Do we let everybody in who wants to come?

    Seventeen migrants died on a boat off the coast of Libya, the Italian navy said on Friday, in the latest episode in the Mediterranean migrant crisis. …………Refugees escaping war and political persecution and economic migrants desperate for a better life have been pouring into Italy this year, with 35,500 arriving there up to the first week of May, according to UN refugee agency estimates. About 1,800 are either dead or missing.

  16. TB Queensland permalink
    May 30, 2015 1:00 pm

    … thanks boss, i was being flippant, but i appreciate that….

    You can never tell around here … the Walrus thinks he’s flippant … and he’s got two … 🙂

    And agree, sreb, another Emmy Award winning piece of journalism …

  17. May 30, 2015 3:59 pm

    post”””””’the Australian Border Force Act .. supported by the ALP and opposed only by the Greens .. effectively turns the Department of Immigration into a secret security organisation with police powers”””””””

    #Border Force Act .. supported by the ALP###

    #l repeat,

    ###supported by the ALP### and opposed only by the Greens

    #l await the team-cheerers contorsions and back-flips .. yet again .. on how very-very-different-exactly-the-same blibs-mpnsters are to the other-monsters. #sigh

    post”””””’The Act not only criminalises whistleblowers but those such as medical professionals and teachers who believe they have an ethical duty(#mandatory-`licencing`-requirement) to report physical and mental harm that occurs””””’

    #way to fcuking go blib, you are now working against the very topics you and your onion-buddies fought long and hard for. #stupid.fcuk

    #Great find reb-a-roo

  18. May 30, 2015 4:48 pm

    and before ya`bleat too hard team-cheerer, here is the (#mandatory-`licencing`-requirement) for the canoe-state


    ””””All teachers in South Australia must undertake appropriate Mandatory Notification Training (MNT). Firstly, you must complete a full day (7-hour) face-to-face MNT course with a Families SA approved trainer to gain registration, and then complete updates to renew your registration.”””


    ”””””’The 7-hour MNT course is sometimes called `Responding to Abuse & Neglect: Education and Care` (RAN) or `Child Safe Environments: Reporting Abuse and Neglect` (CSE). Some employers prefer the RAN course, but either is acceptable for teacher registration.

    Families SA maintains a list of approved providers for the 7-hour MNT course. Approved 7-hour MNT courses may also be accessed at sites such as TAFE SA campuses and DECD Regional Office locations.”””””

  19. May 30, 2015 5:10 pm

    Of”””course, it`s [still] all the fault of women!”””

    #l know. lt`s terrible. All those rabid feminista prowling the streets, kidnapping and stripping naked children by the score. Slipping them bound and gagged thru windows, into local monastery hands.

  20. Neil of Sydney permalink
    May 30, 2015 7:29 pm

    I just came across this link from an old post

    The federal government’s top legal adviser has told Australian Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs she cannot visit Nauru and Manus Island to assess and act on complaints from asylum seekers about conditions on the islands.

    This was reported in May 2013 and therefore happened under Rudd/Gillard. I bet you nobody said anything until Abbott was elected. Same goes for the current post. I bet you no labor supporter would have said anything if Gillard was in power.

    Basically nobody cared what went on in the detention centers until Abbott was elected.

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